Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Psalm 18, subdividing a long psalm

Psalm 18 - translation and detailed recurrence tables here.  I had missed a clue in the division of this first long psalm. The words of verse 2 play no part in the rest of the poem. The words of verse 20 have no part in the first 19 verses. Verse 37 has a word that frames verses 20 to 37. This divides the poem in three roughly equal sections.  Recurrence is perhaps more than a trowel, indeed, possibly a spade, or even a shovel!

As noted in my presentation, psalm 18 has a beautiful snippet in verses 21-25. The tools of parallelism, prosody, and recurrence set this set of verses up nicely.

Psalm 18:21-25

יִגְמְלֵנִי יְהוָה כְּצִדְקִי
כְּבֹר יָדַי יָשִׁיב לִי
21יְהוָה will reward me for my righteousness
for the purity of my hands he will turn to me
כִּי שָׁמַרְתִּי דַּרְכֵי יְהוָה
וְלֹא רָשַׁעְתִּי מֵאֱלֹהָי
22for I have kept the ways of יְהוָה
and I have not been wicked with my God
כִּי כָל מִשְׁפָּטָיו לְנֶגְדִּי
וְחֻקֹּתָיו לֹא אָסִיר מֶנִּי
23for all his judgments are before me
and his statutes I will not put aside from me
וָאֱהִי תָמִים עִמּוֹ
וָאֶשְׁתַּמֵּר מֵעֲו‍ֹנִי
24and I will be complete with him
and I will keep myself from my iniquity
וַיָּשֶׁב יְהוָה לִי כְצִדְקִי
כְּבֹר יָדַי לְנֶגֶד עֵינָיו
25and יְהוָה turned to me for my righteousness
for the purity of my hands before his eyes
The recurring words in relative order in this section clearly show a circular structure with an added focus on the apparently unimportant word before. Before is more than an unimportant preposition. It establishes a close relationship between the poet me and the eyes of  'my God'.  Prepositions are tricky and I have been relaxed with them frequently so undoubtedly missing some sonorities at times.

Word and gloss * first usage12345678VsRoot
כצדקי for my righteousness
21צדק
* כבר for the purity of
21ברר
ידי my hands
21יד
ישׁיב he will turn
21שׁוב
* לי to me
21לי
שׁמרתי I have kept
22שׁמר
ולא and not
22לא
* לנגדי are before me
23נגד
לא not
23לא
ואשׁתמר and I will keep myself
24שׁמר
וישׁב and turned
25שׁוב
* לי to me
25לי
כצדקי for my righteousness
25צדק
* כבר for the purity of
25ברר
ידי my hands
25יד
* לנגד before
25נגד
I posted earlier on this poem here. Verses 8-16 give us another strongly coherent section

Word and gloss * first usage123456789101VsRoot
* ותגעשׁ and shakes
8געשׁ
* ומוסדי and the foundations of
8יסד
* ויתגעשׁו and are shaken
8געשׁ
באפו from his nostril
9אף
* ואשׁ and fire
9אשׁ
* גחלים coals
9גחל
שׁמים heavens
10שׁמים
* רוח the wind
11רוח
* חשׁך darkness
12חשׁך
* חשׁכת dark
12חשׁך
* מים waters
12מים
* עבי thick clouds of
12עב
* עביו his thick clouds
13עב
* ברד hail
13ברד
* וגחלי and coals of
13גחל
* אשׁ fire
13אשׁ
בשׁמים in the heavens
14שׁמים
* ברד hail
14ברד
* וגחלי and coals of
14גחל
* אשׁ fire
14אשׁ
* מים waters
16מים
* מוסדות the foundations of
16יסד
* רוח the wind of
16רוח
אפך your nostrils
16אף